Posted by: mdmusingsie | August 20, 2013

Hookers, Swans, and Heritage

Raise your hand if the only reason you were drawn to this blog was the title?  Keep it raised if you can’t for the life of you figure out what the first item has to do with the other two.

There are at least three things commonly associated with Galway – swans, wind, and hookers.  For those who still find the mind firmly rooted in the gutter, Galway does not have a well known red light district.  A Galway Hooker is a shallow currach (boat) with distinctive, traditionally red, sails.


Galway Hooker (only 2 of the three normal sails unfurled) sailing along the Long Walk


Galway Hooker looking out towards Galway Bay and Clare in the distance


Swan-fest in the Claddagh – they all came for Heritage Week

Something I have grown to associate with the western city is culture, and this week there is plenty of that on display not only in Galway but all over the island.  This is Heritage Week – a time not only to educate the tourists on Irish culture and history, but to educate or re-educate the Irish themselves.  The hooker race (also known as Cruinniú na mBád) from Kinvara to Conemara was just one of the events in the area.  I also attended a basket weaving demonstration.


Ciaran Hogan making a willow basket

A plethora of activities, mostly free but some with a very modest fee are scheduled all over the island. On offer are talks on historical events to walks through modern and ancient history; traditional craft demonstrations, artistic exhibits, dance and of course music. There’s something for everyone whether you 5 or 65 and whether you’ve been in Ireland a day or your entire life.  In fact, there are so many things to do and see around the country, it’s hard to choose which to attend.

I didn’t even realize it would be Heritage Week when I booked my long weekend to Galway.  As with many of my journeys, this one was centered around music, so all the other events were a bonus.

If you’ve read this blog before you’ll already be familiar with my love affair with traditional Irish music (aka Trad) and certain of my favorites I just can’t help but go and see at every opportunity.  This time it was Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, better known as one of the founding members of Altan.  She was appearing as part of the Tunes in the Church series at St. Nicholas’ Church – one of my favorite intimate venues for trad.  The evening began with a set from Brendan Begley along with his daughter Clíodhna, whom I saw perform last month when I attended one of the concerts. After the interval, it was the pièce de résistance of Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh on fiddle and vocals along with Ciarán Curran, also of Altan on bouzouki, and Gary Hasting, rector of St. Nicholas’ on flute.  It’s rare that you can get so up close and personal with some of Trad’s royalty in an intimate, acoustically amazing setting.  Well worth the trip.


Clíodhna and Brendan Begley


Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and Ciarán Curran


Gary Hastings, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, and Ciarán Curran

In addition, I neglected to mention in my last posting on the Tunes in the Church concerts that they now have a CD featuring many of the talented musicians that participate in these yearly events.  The CD received a 4 star rating from the Irish Times.  Whilst I don’t see it available online, if you can’t drop into one of the concerts to pick one up, I’m sure if you use the contact page on the Tunes website they’ll be happy to make arrangements.  And yes, I have a copy (Míle Buíochas to Caitríona) that I’m enjoying very much.

Here’s a few more sculptures from the outside of St. Nicholas Church.


Green Man type carving




Another of the church guardians


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